8.08.2008

PreView's Picks for UFC 87

Some intriguing match-ups in this one. My picks for the winners are immediately below, and some explanations on the bouts themselves follow the jump. Puddin and I weren’t able to get together for our second UFC Event Chat, but we’re planning a State of the U[fc]NION chat next week, as well as a State of MMA chat, where we’ll be talking about promotions other than the UFC.

Georges St. Pierre (GSP) v. Jon Fitch – GSP

Kenny Florian v. Roger Huerta – Florian

Brock Lesnar v. Heath Herring – Lesnar

Manny Gamburyan v. Rob Emerson – Gamburyan

Jason MacDonald v. Demian Maia – MacDonald

Luke Cummo v. Tamdan McCrory – Cummo

Cheick Kongo v. Dan Evensen – Kongo

Chris Wilson v. Steve Bruno – Wilson

Andre Gusmao v. Jon Jones – Gusmao

Ben Saunders v. Ryan Thomas – Saunders



GSP v. Fitch – This is an interesting match-up because while GSP is generally ranked as one of the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world, he did not successfully defend the Welterweight (WW) title in his first and only title defense, to Matt Serra. However, he did avenge his losses to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra in a dominating fashion, particularly with Hughes.

Fitch truly worked his way up the ladder to get his title shot. He’s beaten the likes of Thiago Alves, Josh Burkman and Diego Sanchez on his way to GSP. He’s undefeated in the UFC and ties UFC legend Royce Gracie for the longest unbeaten streak (8 fights). GSP’s origins are in wrestling (he wrestled at Purdue), but has since earned a black belt in Guerilla Jiu Jitsu (a variation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that puts more emphasis on MMA applications) and his striking skills are solid as well.

I think Fitch is a great fighter, but from the press conferences I’ve seen, I think GSP is in an entirely different mind-frame than he was in when he first tried to defend his title against Serra. He seems much more focused and serious. Additionally, when GSP fought Josh Koscheck (one of Fitch’s teammates and training partners), Koscheck (whose wrestling skills are some of the best in the UFC) had his takedowns continually and consistently stuffed by GSP.

When GSP is focused, he’s not prone to making mistakes, and I think he has serious focus now.

GSP by TKO in the second. (On a side note, I also want to add that GSP, post-fight, will attempt his normal backflip. I say attempt, because he always only barely makes it, so it is my prediction that after this fight, if he attempts it, he’ll come even closer than he normally does to breaking his ankles.)


Florian v. Huerta – The winner of the Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta fight has been guaranteed a title shot against current Lightweight (LW) champion BJ Penn. However, the UFC execs are unsure when this will occur, because Dana White (UFC Pres/CEO) has stated that should GSP get through Fitch, BJ Penn will move up a weight class and fight GSP in an attempt to avenge a loss from a couple years ago.

Regardless, the fight pundits are predicting this one to be Fight of the Night, and potentially Fight of the Year. Since losing to Sean Sherk for the UFC LW belt in the inaugural match since the LW class returned, Florian has gone on a four-fight win streak, with all the matches coming by stoppage. His most recent win was over LW prospect Joe Lauzon, which he won by TKO.

Huerta is undefeated in the UFC, and has won all of his fights but one by stoppage. Huerta was, for a long time, the new Latino poster-boy for the UFC, and did tons of press conferences, tours, etc. However, he’s nearing the end of a self-imposed 8-month break, and in the past few weeks has made some disparaging remarks about the UFC, its management, and its treatment of fighters. While this will not have an effect on his performance in the fight itself, it could very easily have an effect on his career afterwards, particularly if he loses.

Should Huerta lose, the UFC could bounce him out. Granted, Huerta is an up-and-coming name in the sport and would likely be a big draw in another organization, but the UFC is still the premiere organization of MMA. Puddin and I were speaking earlier and he made the remark that MMA is still not a mainstream sport – and he’s right. The popularity of MMA is growing, but promotions on top of promotions fold under the pressure, both financial, and from the UFC. Due to this, the paychecks in the other organizations aren’t close to what they are in the UFC. So if Huerta keeps running his mouth about how the UFC treats its fighters poorly in the financial arena (which there may be some valid claims to), he’s going to get fired.

But then the question becomes “Will Huerta lose?” I think the answer is YES. Huerta has had an impressive run in the UFC, and he is a solid fighter, but there is some question about the quality of opponents he has faced. The combined UFC records of his 6 opponents is four wins and fourteen losses (4-14) and three of those wins are from Clay Guida, easily the toughest opponent that Huerta faced. Moreover, a number of the fighters that Huerta faced were making their UFC debuts.

Florian has great standup and submission games, and has a habit of unleashing a barrage of violent and effective elbows when he’s in the bottom position. Huerta barely had an answer for when Clay Guida took him down, and Florian is a true submission fighter when on the ground, transitioning from one position to another, always going for the finish.

There’s a good chance this fight will make it out of the first round if Huerta can effectively alternate between keeping his distance from Florian and getting on the inside to try and deliver punches and knees. Regardless, I don’t think it’s going past the second.

Florian by submission in the second.


Lesnar v. Herring – Before I get to the meat of this fight, I’m going to take a moment and rant, as I sometimes tend to do. I think it’s sucks that these fighters got paired together. Granted, Lesnar made it clear he didn’t want to fight cans in any of his UFC fights, but Herring just came off an upset of Cheick Kongo, and should be one of a few in line for the next HW title shot. Especially since Herring almost (and should have) beat the current interim UFC HW Champ, Noguiera, in his last fight. Lesnar is coming off a disappointing submission loss to Frank Mir. Their fight lasted approximately 90 seconds – Lesnar dominated 80 seconds of it, and then Mir came in with a great submission. Since Lesnar is coming off a loss, why not give him Kongo, who is also coming off a loss? Or give him of the UFC up-and-coming HWs like Shane Carwin.

Regardless, Herring has much more experience than Lesnar, has fought a large number of quality opponents and isn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up with anybody. Herring also owns the greatest pre-fight win ever. Yes, I said pre-fight Check this out:



Lesnar is a phenomenal wrestler, and has ridiculous agility for a HW. The best word I could use to describe his physical abilities is probably explosive. Expect to see Herring get taken down multiple times – and the number of takedowns will exponentially increase the longer the fight goes on.

Besides his wrestling, Lesnar’s strength appears to be his potential for ground-n-pound. I say potential because he’s only had two MMA fight and didn’t have a chance to do much in either. Lesnar does own the record for largest hand-size of any fighter in the UFC (they had to specially make size 4X gloves for him) and he hits hard.

Herring, in his UFC debut, lost a lackluster decision to Jake O’Brien, a wrestler who took Herring down at will and basically laid on him until the fight was over. Lesnar’s wrestling skills are much stronger than O’Brien’s, as is his ability to work effectively when an opponent is on the ground. Additionally, Herring’s Jiu Jitsu isn’t as good as Frank Mir’s, so I don’t think he’s as likely to catch Lesnar in a submission like Mir did. However, Herring is becoming a better, smarter fighter, so I’m sure his training camp has stressed trying to defend the takedown and get submissions from the bottom.

Regardless of this, I don’t think it will pay off. Lesnar needs a win to continue to fight the better HW’s like he wants to – and in spite of the fact that Lesnar is an enormous pay-per-view draw, I think if he loses here, he’s got one fight left in the UFC, at best.

Lesnar by TKO in the first.


Well, that’s about it for my pre-fight analysis – I don’t feel like going over the rest of the fights except to say that you’re not a true Luke Cummo fan unless you're planning on switching to a Lifefood diet; Ben Saunders (recent TUF alumnus) practices Jeet Kune Do and effectively uses it in the UFC; and Andrew Gusmao, making his UFC debut, is a Capoeira master, so I’m hoping we see at least a couple good kicks. Maybe even some acrobatics if he wins.

-PreView

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